Gender, Work and Family in Turbulent Times: COVID-19, Remote Work and Diversity

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760). This special issue belongs to the section "Gender Studies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 September 2023) | Viewed by 14553

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
Interests: technology and the future of work; aging and carework; work and family; women's careers; disciplines and interdisciplinarity, including trends in publishing in sociology; international dimensions of social problems

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Rapid social changes that stem from wars, pandemics and the widespread adoption of new technologies can alter, reinforce and/or disrupt established gender patterns. This Special Issue seeks to collect research on the recent trends in gender, work and family. This call for papers presumes that the pandemic and its aftermath were not singular events, but rather evolved in stages under widely varying rules and arrangements. Moreover, such novel experiences such as remote work have been experienced very differently in diverse segments of the population. For example, an employed single mother who had no opportunity to work remotely and whose child's schools were closed for an extended period of time may well have had different experiences than a dual-earner couple who were both working remotely, while their children's school was only closed briefly. We seek submissions that help to inform a broad spectrum of experiences, including regional and international variation. Studies that examine diversity with respect to race, class, gender, LGBTQ status, partner status, care of adult family members, as well as child care, and studies that employ a variety of research approaches are all welcome.

Submissions of extended abstracts (not required) will be considered until April 15. Submissions of full papers will be considered until September 15. Accepted articles will be published online on a rolling basis. 

Prof. Dr. Jerry A. Jacobs
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Social Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

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Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

22 pages, 498 KiB  
Article
Preferences for Remote and Hybrid Work: Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Carolyn E. Waldrep, Marni Fritz and Jennifer Glass
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(6), 303; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13060303 - 3 Jun 2024
Viewed by 184
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity for many American workers to work from home. Did the rapid and widespread adoption of remote work arrangements influence workers’ preferences? This study analyzes the early pandemic work experiences of 52 participants (20 men and 32 women) [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity for many American workers to work from home. Did the rapid and widespread adoption of remote work arrangements influence workers’ preferences? This study analyzes the early pandemic work experiences of 52 participants (20 men and 32 women) in dual-earner households with children through in-depth interviews conducted in 2021 and 2022 via Zoom. The study explores respondents’ desire for remote and hybrid work, considering job satisfaction as well as job characteristics, family structure, and household organization. Unless their jobs were poorly suited to remote work, most workers with pandemic-era remote work opportunities—and even some who had not worked remotely—wished to keep remote access in their post-pandemic work arrangements. Respondents reported enhanced job satisfaction and productivity from remote work, as a result of greater schedule control and flexibility. We found that some workers were willing to change jobs to maintain their preferred work arrangement, while others acquiesced to employers’ return-to-work policies. The study highlights the need to understand workers’ preferences in supporting flexible work arrangements and contributes to the understanding of remote work on family dynamics during the pandemic and afterwards. Full article
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21 pages, 315 KiB  
Article
“We Cannot Go There, They Cannot Come Here”: Dispersed Care, Asian Indian Immigrant Families and the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Rianka Roy, Bandana Purkayastha and Elizabeth Chacko
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(5), 252; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13050252 - 6 May 2024
Viewed by 1201
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted families and displaced individuals. For migrant workers, these disruptions and displacements exacerbated the state-imposed constraints on family formation. But how did high-skilled and high-wage immigrants, presumably immune from these challenges, provide care to and receive care from families during [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted families and displaced individuals. For migrant workers, these disruptions and displacements exacerbated the state-imposed constraints on family formation. But how did high-skilled and high-wage immigrants, presumably immune from these challenges, provide care to and receive care from families during the pandemic? Based on 33 in-depth interviews with high-skilled Asian Indian immigrants in the USA during the pandemic, we note disruptions in their care to and from families. These disruptions reveal a persistent pattern of dispersion in immigrant families which leads to what we call “dispersed care.” By “dispersed care” we identify the effects of various state-imposed immigration laws and policies, which force immigrants to divide and allocate care among multiple fragments of their families in home and host countries. Dispersed care affects immigrant workers’ professional output, forcing them to make difficult choices between their career and care commitments. To unsettle the assumed homogeneity of high-skilled “Asian Indians,” we choose participants at diverse intersections of their migration pathways—naturalized US citizens, permanent US residents, and temporary visa holders or nonimmigrants. While naturalized US citizens and permanent residents have better resources to maintain transnational family ties than nonimmigrants, all of them face the intersectional challenges of dispersed care. Full article
21 pages, 782 KiB  
Article
Contrasting Conceptions of Work–Family Balance and the Implications for Satisfaction with Balance during the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Sejin Um, Anne Kou, Carolyn E. Waldrep and Kathleen Gerson
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(5), 236; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13050236 - 25 Apr 2024
Viewed by 787
Abstract
Pandemic-related changes, including the expansion of remote work and the closure of schools and daycare supports, posed unprecedented challenges to parents’ conceptions of their work and home routines. Drawing on interviews with 88 heterosexual partnered parents, we examine the different ways parents understand [...] Read more.
Pandemic-related changes, including the expansion of remote work and the closure of schools and daycare supports, posed unprecedented challenges to parents’ conceptions of their work and home routines. Drawing on interviews with 88 heterosexual partnered parents, we examine the different ways parents understand what it means to balance work and family responsibilities and how their conceptions shaped satisfaction with their balance during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, we discover that parents held three distinct conceptions of work–family balance at the outset of the pandemic: (1) individualistic (where balance is understood as an individual pursuit and regarded independently of their partner’s efforts in the work and family spheres), (2) specialized (where each partner specializes in one sphere, producing balance between spheres), and (3) egalitarian (where partners share responsibilities in both spheres). Next, among the women and men who held specialized or egalitarian conceptions of balance, most sustained their level of satisfaction. In contrast, among those with individualistic conceptions, most women (but not men) reported a change in their satisfaction. These findings provide new insights about the varied meanings people attach to the concept of “work–family balance” and how these diverse conceptions have consequences for satisfaction with gender dynamics in households. Full article
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21 pages, 295 KiB  
Article
A Tale of Two Realities: Gendered Workspace during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Taipei
by Chyi-Rong Tsai
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(4), 204; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13040204 - 6 Apr 2024
Viewed by 1671
Abstract
This study examines how heterosexual couples in Taipei used space when both were working from home. I interviewed 29 heterosexual couples on how they arranged working space at home and how these spatial arrangements influenced their working experiences and career development. I found [...] Read more.
This study examines how heterosexual couples in Taipei used space when both were working from home. I interviewed 29 heterosexual couples on how they arranged working space at home and how these spatial arrangements influenced their working experiences and career development. I found that space was gendered: men tended to work in a preferable space at home compared to their partners. However, a preferable space was not always defined by its physical setting, such as a room. Interviews revealed that women tended to move around to accommodate their family members’ needs when they worked from home, having unstable and interrupted working environments. Their experiences revealed that women’s family roles, such as mother, daughter, and wife, are prioritized at home, resulting in constant interruptions. On the contrary, men’s roles as workers were prioritized and protected when they worked from home. Gender superseded and transformed the physical space and reproduced gender inequality at work for people who work from home. This study suggests the need to consider the impact of gender norms before treating remote work as a pro-work–family policy. Full article
19 pages, 885 KiB  
Article
A Case of Sticky Gender? Persistence and Change in the Division of Household Labor during the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Michelle Cera, Golda Kaplan, Kathleen Gerson and Barbara Risman
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(4), 182; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13040182 - 22 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1353
Abstract
Contemporary research finds that gender continues to provide an organizing framework for couples’ allocation of household labor. To explain this outcome, scholars focus on how structural arrangements and cultural beliefs contribute to the persistence of gender inequality in domestic labor. Yet scholarship has [...] Read more.
Contemporary research finds that gender continues to provide an organizing framework for couples’ allocation of household labor. To explain this outcome, scholars focus on how structural arrangements and cultural beliefs contribute to the persistence of gender inequality in domestic labor. Yet scholarship has yet to fully clarify what combination of cultural and structural factors create persistent gender inequality in household labor. We use the COVID-19 pandemic as a naturally occurring event in which arrangements for childcare and work were upended, making it possible for many to rethink their household arrangements. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 81 respondents in heterosexual dual-earner couples, we examine how change in structural arrangements allowed some couples to develop a more egalitarian division of domestic labor. We also examine why an unequal division of labor persisted for most couples even amid the dramatic changes in their work and childcare arrangements and, for some, a strong desire to do so. We theorize that, taken alone, neither cultural attitudes nor shifts in the organization of work are sufficient to remove the stickiness of gender inequality in household work. Instead, structural change offers the possibility to change behavior, but only if cultural beliefs exist that make such change desirable. Full article
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20 pages, 367 KiB  
Article
Understanding Gender Disparities in Caregiving, Stress, and Perceptions of Institutional Support among Faculty during the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Sarah Thébaud, Charlotte Hoppen, Jennifer David and Eileen Boris
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(4), 181; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13040181 - 22 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1054
Abstract
The loss of the care infrastructure that occurred during the COVID-19 crisis exposed society’s continued reliance on women and mothers as default caregivers. But less is known about how this crisis produced gendered mental health outcomes, especially in occupations characterized by intensive work [...] Read more.
The loss of the care infrastructure that occurred during the COVID-19 crisis exposed society’s continued reliance on women and mothers as default caregivers. But less is known about how this crisis produced gendered mental health outcomes, especially in occupations characterized by intensive work cultures such as academia. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative responses from a May 2021 campus-wide survey of faculty at a large research university in the United States, we explore gendered patterns in faculty caregivers’ time use, stress, and perceptions of institutional support. Our findings demonstrate that childcare responsibilities were not merely more substantial for women than men in terms of hours, but they were also qualitatively different, with women’s hours being more unpredictable, interruptive, and mentally and emotionally demanding. We also show that the pandemic took a higher toll on women faculty’s mental health compared to men’s. This gap in mental health emerged not merely because women were spending more time caregiving on average, but also because the university’s policies did not effectively support the most strained caregivers. This study contributes empirical evidence to research on academic caregivers during the pandemic and to work demonstrating how (1) gendered caregiving dynamics shape mental health and remote work experiences and (2) the reliance on individual solutions to balancing work and family has failed even relatively privileged workers. Full article
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21 pages, 1340 KiB  
Article
Remote Work, Gender Ideologies, and Fathers’ Participation in Childcare during the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Daniel L. Carlson, Skye McPherson and Richard J. Petts
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(3), 166; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13030166 - 14 Mar 2024
Viewed by 1257
Abstract
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work became the new reality for many fathers. Though time availability theory suggests that this newfound flexibility should lead to more domestic labor on the part of fathers, many were skeptical that fathers would [...] Read more.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work became the new reality for many fathers. Though time availability theory suggests that this newfound flexibility should lead to more domestic labor on the part of fathers, many were skeptical that fathers would step up to shoulder the load at home. Indeed, the findings are decidedly mixed on the association of fathers’ remote work with their performance of housework and childcare. Nonetheless, research has yet to consider how contextual factors, such as fathers’ gender ideologies and mothers’ employment, may condition these associations. Using data from Wave 1 of the Study on U.S. Parents’ Divisions of Labor During COVID-19 (SPDLC), we examine how gender ideology moderates the association between fathers’ remote work and their performance and share of childcare during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in both sole-earner and dual-earner families. The results show, for sole-earning fathers and dual-earner fathers with egalitarian gender attitudes, that the frequency of remote work was positively associated with fathers performing more, and a greater share of, childcare during the pandemic. Yet, only dual-earner fathers with egalitarian gender attitudes performed an equal share of childcare in their families. These findings suggest that the pandemic provided structural opportunities for fathers, particularly egalitarian-minded fathers, to be the equally engaged parents they desired. Full article
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20 pages, 361 KiB  
Article
Inequalities in Academic Work during COVID-19: The Intersection of Gender, Class, and Individuals’ Life-Course Stage
by Anna Carreri, Manuela Naldini and Alessia Tuselli
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(3), 162; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13030162 - 12 Mar 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1401
Abstract
Research studies on academic work and the COVID-19 crisis have clearly shown that the pandemic crisis contributed to exacerbating pre-existing gender gaps. Although the research has been extensive in this regard, it has focused more on the widening of the “motherhood penalty”, while [...] Read more.
Research studies on academic work and the COVID-19 crisis have clearly shown that the pandemic crisis contributed to exacerbating pre-existing gender gaps. Although the research has been extensive in this regard, it has focused more on the widening of the “motherhood penalty”, while other groups of academics are blurred. Even more underinvestigated and not yet fully explained are the intersections between further axes of diversity, often because the research conducted during the pandemic was based on a small volume of in-depth data. By drawing on interview data from a wider national research project, this article aims to contribute to this debate by adopting an intersectional approach. In investigating daily working life and work–life balance during the pandemic of a highly heterogeneous sample of 127 Italian academics, this article sheds light on how gender combines with other axes of asymmetry, particularly class (precarious versus stable and prestigious career positions) and age (individuals’ life-course stage), to produce specific conditions of interrelated (dis)advantage for some academics. The analysis reveals three household and family life course types that embody the interlocking of gender, class, and age within a specific social location with unequal, and possibly long-term, consequences for the quality of working life, well-being, and careers of academics, living alone or with parents, couples without children or with grown-up children, and couples with young children and other family members in need of care. Full article
20 pages, 312 KiB  
Article
The Gendered Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Employment in Argentina: The Mediating Role of the Public vs. Private Sectors
by Yasmin A. Mertehikian and Emilio A. Parrado
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(2), 123; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13020123 - 19 Feb 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1244
Abstract
This study examines the COVID-19 pandemic’s immediate and long-term impact on Argentina’s labor market with a focus on gender disparities and the mediating role of the public vs. private sectors. Using household survey data, we assess men and women’s employment trends before, during, [...] Read more.
This study examines the COVID-19 pandemic’s immediate and long-term impact on Argentina’s labor market with a focus on gender disparities and the mediating role of the public vs. private sectors. Using household survey data, we assess men and women’s employment trends before, during, and after the pandemic. Our findings reveal gender-specific recovery patterns that interact with the employment sector. The most prominent short-term effect of the pandemic was a dramatic increase in inactivity for both men and women. However, men recovered their level of labor force participation sooner than women, and one of the mechanisms behind this disparity was sector employment. While men predominantly benefitted from quicker reintegration in both the formal and informal private sectors, women leaned toward the public sector for stability during and after the pandemic. The heightened feminization of public sector employment is a further indication that the sector is critical for sustaining women’s employment and promoting gender equity in the labor market. Full article
28 pages, 1252 KiB  
Article
Housework Reallocation between Genders and Generations during China’s COVID-19 Lockdowns: Patterns & Reasons
by Ting Wang
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(1), 58; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13010058 - 15 Jan 2024
Viewed by 1314
Abstract
This paper examines housework reallocation during China’s stringent pandemic lockdowns in 2020, where individuals were homebound and job-free while employment status remained unchanged. Utilizing a mixed-method approach, it analyzes 1669 surveys and 100 interviews to understand changes in domestic labor patterns and the [...] Read more.
This paper examines housework reallocation during China’s stringent pandemic lockdowns in 2020, where individuals were homebound and job-free while employment status remained unchanged. Utilizing a mixed-method approach, it analyzes 1669 surveys and 100 interviews to understand changes in domestic labor patterns and the underlying reasons. The findings indicate that men increased their participation in grocery shopping but decreased in cooking, cleaning, and laundry during the lockdown. This gender-task pattern was mirrored in multi-generational households, where younger family members often took on these tasks. The reasons articulated for these shifts predominantly converged around the ‘doing gender’ theory. Women, particularly those working full-time, had more time to engage in household chores. Men, while also having more available time, predominantly focused on grocery shopping, a task that gained masculine connotations during the lockdown. Factors such as perceived differences in household labor quality, difficulty delegating housework, and reduced workload led to women’s increased involvement and specialization in domestic tasks. The study challenges the notion that economic factors are the primary drivers of gender-based division of housework. Instead, it suggests that ingrained gender norms continue to dictate domestic roles, as evidenced during the lockdown period devoid of usual economic and time pressures. Full article
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19 pages, 1323 KiB  
Article
The Shifting Stress of Working Parents: An Examination of Dual Pandemic Disruptions—Remote Work and Remote Schooling
by Wen Fan and Phyllis Moen
Soc. Sci. 2024, 13(1), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci13010036 - 4 Jan 2024
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1447
Abstract
Working remotely at least some of the time has long been seen as promoting a better integration of work and care obligations, even though prepandemic research is mixed as to the extent to which parents benefit emotionally from remote work. We exploit dual [...] Read more.
Working remotely at least some of the time has long been seen as promoting a better integration of work and care obligations, even though prepandemic research is mixed as to the extent to which parents benefit emotionally from remote work. We exploit dual social experiments in schooling and work spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic to understand any stress-reducing effects of working from home under different school-closing state policy contexts. The pandemic led to an unprecedented shift to (and subsequent away from) remote and hybrid work but also to the implementation of various containment policies, most notably school closures driving a shift to remote learning that were put into effect to different degrees across U.S. states. Drawing on parents’ data from a U.S. nationally representative panel survey of workers who spent at least some time working from home since the pandemic onset, we use mixed-effects models to examine whether and in what ways cross-state and over-time variations in school closure policies shape any stress-reducing impacts of remote/hybrid work. Results show that when schools were not mandated to close, remote/hybrid work largely reduces parents’—especially mothers’—stress. However, an opposite pattern emerges in the face of closing mandates. These patterns are especially pronounced among white mothers and are not observed among nonparents. Full article
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